INTERVIEW | Kyle Anastasi: 'It is time to reset the way we view skills'

Much have been said about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and how this will impact the jobs of today, in an age of intelligence where we are witnessing an increasing overlap between the physical and technological worlds. BusinessToday spoke to KYLE ANASTASI from Microsoft Malta who wonders if we still need to realise how technologies such as AI, machine learning, cloud computing, robotics are bound to impact the way we live and work

 Kyle Anastasi
Kyle Anastasi

Many express their concern about this fourth revolution but you don’t. Why is that?

It is true that this ‘revolution’ led by emerging technologies is changing the jobs landscape and how we do business. It is also bringing a lot of disruption in most workplaces, completely changing what they look like and how they operate.

Yes it is very tempting to dwell on the negatives of job losses and the fear of ‘machines taking jobs’, but we should also keep in mind that this shift is a repeat of what the world went through with the first great jobs upheaval: the original Industrial Revolution.

Here, humankind moved from a largely agrarian lifestyle to one that was shaped by machines and the introduction of the steam engine and waterpower forced a significant change in the work landscape.

Although jobs involving unskilled menial labour declined, a new set of jobs came to the fore – after all, mechanics were needed for this mechanical revolution.

A lot of changes in such a short span of time...

In fact the industrial revolution was followed by the age of science and mass production, and then by the digital revolution.

And now, we have entered the 4IR – the technological revolution.

The common factor is that with every industrial revolution, there has been a loss of jobs as machines become more sophisticated and took over the less skilled tasks previously performed by humans, but correspondingly, new jobs become available, ones requiring a new skill set to be gained.

The same will happen now so we should strive to understand the past to make better sense of the future and this is basically why we should not be intimidated by the notion of learning new skills.

So, while none of us knows what the Fifth Industrial Revolution will look like, we can be assured that when it happens, new skills will be required at that time too.

A global pandemic must have surely impacted the work place, is that right?

Remote working was an eventuality. The pandemic only accelerated this eventuality making it normal within a span of a few months.

A significant realisation on the part of many employers has been that a great deal of work can be completed on a task-based system with weekly check-ins.

This has highlighted a modern reality – that anyone can be part of a team as long as they have a device and a reliable internet connection.

This is more prominent with jobs that are IT or digital-based, in jobs such as IT support, data engineering, graphic design, app development and many more.

Location is no longer necessarily a barrier to work and therefore policymakers should see to the upskilling of the population for the upcoming generation to be able to compete in the global employment market.

Sometimes it is easier said than done especially with the current and older generations of workers....

Instead of fighting change, we need to embrace it by reshaping our thinking around skilling.

Learning new skills cannot remain a one-off event at the start of our careers but a continuous learning process throughout our working lives.

What is mostly important is that we instil a ‘growth mindset’ in our children and help them develop a love of learning.

Their frame of thought needs to be devloped in a way that when a new opportunity is made available, they will naturally want to upskill themselves.

It seems that the change has to also take place in the way we conduct education

It all boils down to re-shaping our conventional understanding of the way skills are transferred.

In fact, in my opinion, education can no longer be something that occurs within the confines of a classroom. It is very evident that with the advent of new technology and the cloud, skilling is no longer an activity that can only happen within four walls.

So a shift in our model of learning is necessary.

This pandemic has already made us shift to the ‘virtual’ – it was an unavoidable and essential progression.

So, from necessity, people have now realised that virtual training is indeed viable and possible.

And while online or virtual learning will certainly continue to be dominant, two very important factors must be considered to make a success of self-paced learning in a virtual sphere: motivation and access to the right infrastructure.

What do you make of the near future within this context?

Look, the future only knows one certainty: that people and technology will always co-exist.

The current pandemic has already shown that technology can enable alternative learning paths, avoiding a crippling loss of skills development opportunities.

So instead of feeling trepidation and anxiety, now is the time to embrace the wonderful advances that technology has enabled in the sphere of education and skills development.

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